How the climate strike made me an optimist

As a former pessimist, the climate strike really changed my point of view.

I wasn’t planning on participating in the climate strike. If I was, I would’ve brought gloves, a hat and a warmer jacket. 

But that’s beside the point. Just before noon on the day of the climate strike, I thought the whole thing would be ineffective and useless for a plethora of reasons. I thought, why would anyone care about university students striking? How will this make a difference? Also, I’m becoming increasingly pessimistic about politics and how democratic our government really is. It seems to be run by corporations and lobby groups rather than the electorate. I don’t believe the government is truly working for us anymore, so I didn’t believe marching to the legislature would result in any change at all.

I agreed to join the horde of chanting people in the quad because my friend asked me to, and then I was swept up in the moment. We began marching to the legislature, shouting about climate justice and fossil fuels. I emailed my professor as we marched to let her know I wouldn’t be making it to class, because I had officially joined the climate strike.

At first, I was still skeptical. In my opinion, the best way to promote change would be through a consumer-oriented strike or boycott — something that would affect the profit margins of large corporations, because we all know it’s large corporations that really run the country. 

When we were halfway over the High Level Bridge shouting “this is what community looks like” to an onslaught of passing vehicles honking in support, I had an epiphany: everyone else was right all along. This is effective. Maybe not in the way most people thought, as in the belief that the government would see us all and make new, greener legislation; because after all, we are the electorate, and the government is (supposedly) accountable to us. Instead, it’s effective by showing that we do care, and making other people more conscious of the crisis and the small actions they can take to help. 

Today I read an article in the Edmonton Journal about how Jason Kenny believes banning plastic bags is a meaningless gesture, reinforcing my belief that the government will not listen to us. However, that same article mentioned that Sobey’s will phase out plastic bags by 2020. This means our voices are being heard. Sure, the corporations are just doing it for money, but they’re still doing it, because of the growing attention placed on climate change.

The climate change march did end up changing my mind on what actually works. I don’t think marching is the be-all-end-all of activism, and I do believe there are a lot of other things we can and should be doing on top of it. But there really is something to be said for gathering thousands of people who are passionate about an issue and having them all yell about it. It was also really satisfying to repeatedly shout “Jason Kenney has got to go,” and I hope he heard us. So keep striking, my fellow students, but also remember that chanting will only get us so far. Our biggest power is our power as consumers, so I call on you all to change your habits and stand up for what you believe in.

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